Shrines along the way: Between Tiruvannamalai and Tirukkoyilur


Driving our motor scooter to Tirukkoyilur and back to Tiruvannamalai, we noticed many brightly painted shrines, with big statues of various gods and protectors for the villages that lined the road. We thought these would be of interest to those that read this blog. Part of what I continue to notice is how God fills the everyday lives of so many people here in South India, and how God is never far away or unreachable. Rather god is personal, down to the altar in each person’s home, and their family temple. God is as close as Nandi’s ear, into which you can whisper your deepest secrets and desires.

These are shown in approximate order as you would see them driving back to Tiruvannamalai. Photos were taken on two different days at different times, so the lighting is not always consistent between them.

Most of these shrines feature deities that protect the village in some way.


(from wikipedia):

In Hinduism, the Goddess Durga (“the inaccessible” or “the invincible”) or Maa Durga (Mother Durga) “one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress”. Durga is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having ten arms, riding a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons (including a Lotus flower), maintaining a meditative smile, and practicing mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.

An embodiment of creative feminine force (Shakti), Durga exists in a state of svātantrya (dependence on the universe and nothing/nobody else, i.e., self-sufficiency) and fierce compassion. Durga is considered by Hindus to be an aspect of Kali, and the mother of Ganesha, and Kartikeya. She is thus considered the fiercer, demon-fighting form of Lord Siva’s wife, Goddess Parvati. Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.




there are a number of shines decidated to Muniappan (or various of his other names) that are shown here. This is a Tamil figure, not a Hindu one, and these figures remain very popular in vilages in Tamil Nadu.

This shrine is the biggest of those that we sasw on this trip, nicely ‘housed’ in a grove of trees. I think it is old, I just have no idea how old.

(from wikipedia):

Muniandi was initially worshipped in the form of a Soolam (Trident) and stone (usually brick or Lingam-shaped stones). The deity was formless and eventually evolved into Munisvaran worship. Both Muniandi and Munisvaran are actually referring to the same deity. The other names are Muniappan, Aandiappan, Munisamy.

In contemporary worship, statues are included. It is usually of an elderly or young man with thick moustache and a range of weapons such as Aruval (sickle), sword, stick, trident, whip or even a mace.


As we walk into this shrine, there are a number of painted horses, with their attendants.



Behind there are more horses, older and unpainted. How old is this shrine, I wonder.


Another attendant.


One of the old horses has become broken.


To the rear of the shrine are a series of swings, with clay figures sitting on them.


Here is the main figure. Note that he is behind a primitive altar of seven stones. This old altar is probably how this shrine originated.



Behind the shrine is a wasteland of old idols and clay figures. Maybe there are 40 or 50 here, some painted, most are not.



To the side of the main altar is the primitive altar of stone lingams and tridents.


My guide, Saran, sets one of the swings in motion.


One of the horse’s attendants looks surprisingly modern. Notice the wristwatch and shoes with laces.



Back on the road. See Arunachala in the distance?



Hanuman is admired for his great strength. There are numerous temples for Hanuman, and his images are usually installed at all temples where images of avatars of Vishnu are installed. Hanuman temples can be found in many places so that the area and the surroundings are free from rakshasas and ‘evils’.


HOIM5172 crop

The priest comes out and rings the bell for us.


Ankala Parameswari

This is a female protector, who fills the heart of evil people with fear. Another ancient Tamil deity.

(also Ankalamma, or Angalamma, see this wikipedia posting):

Ankalamma is a non-Vedic deity and, like so many Tamil popular deities, she seems to have originated in a fierce guardian figure. Hindu scholars like H. Krishna Sastri say that it is difficult to explain the origin of her name, but he affirms that the sacred areas of Ankalamma and similar village goddesses are much dreaded by the locals. In the rituals dedicated to her she is appeased with blood.


More horses and attendants. I have seen more clay horse figures here than I have ever seen actual horses.


Another modern attendant. This one has a rifle!


In the back of the horses are the main figures.


If you look closely at the main figure, you can see that she is a woman wearing a saree.

Saran told me that this figure brings out fear (if you are a bad person). She will ride her white horse into town at midnight. If you are not afraid, there is no problem. If you do react with fear, you will be frozen with the fear, and maybe you will die in a few days.


Looking to the road, there is Richard on the scooter, talking to an Indian man.



(From wikipedia posting)

Muniandi (Tamil: முனியாண்டி) a regional Tamil deity who is popular amongst the least Sanskritized social groups of South India, Tamil Nadu.

Muniandi was initially worshipped in the form of a Soolam (Trident) and stone (usually brick or Lingam-shaped stones). The deity was formless and eventually evolved into Munisvaran worship. Both Muniandi and Munisvaran are actually referring to the same deity. The other names are Muniappan, Aandiappan, Munisamy.

In contemporary worship, statues are included. It is usually of an elderly or young man with thick moustache and a range of weapons such as Aruval(sickel), sword, stick, trident, whip or even a mace.

He is a protector figure, ready at all times to protect the village and its people from dangers and evil.


The drummer will drum out a call to him to bring him to your aid.



Murugan is the son of Siva and Parvati, and brother to Ganesh.

(From wikipedia):

Lord Murugan is more popular in South India compared to other parts of India. He is the God of war and the patron deity of the Tamil land (Tamil Nadu).

In Tamil Nadu, Murugan has continued to be popular with all classes of society right since the Sangam age. This has led to more elaborate accounts of his mythology in the Tamil language, culminating in the Tamil version of Skanda Purana, called Kandha Purānam, written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar (1350-1420 CE.) of Kumara Kottam in the city of Kanchipuram.

He is married to two deities, Valli, a daughter of a tribal chief and Deivayanai (also called Devasena), the daughter of Indra. During His bachelorhood, Lord Murugan is also regarded as Kumaraswami (or Bachelor God), Kumara meaning a bachelor and Swami meaning God. Murugan rides a peacock and wields a bow in battle. The lance called Vel in Tamil is a weapon closely associated with him. The Vel was given to him by his mother, Parvati, and embodies her energy and power. The flag of his army depicts a rooster. In the war, the demon Soorapadman was split into two, and each half was granted a boon by Murugan. The halves thus turned into the peacock (his mount) and the rooster.

Murugan is also seen to be a protector. He will take care of the evil with his  lance.


Here is Murugan with his two wives, Valli and Deivayanai. Standing next to him are his brother, Ganesh, and two of his vahanas, peacocks.

HPIM5150 crop

One of his disciples stands in from of the temple with his club.


Many lances are queued up in front of the temple. I guess Murugan will be ready for anything!


Another Muniandi Shrine

– see Muniappan, above. Another male protector.


Don’t mess with these guys.

HPIM5141 crop


(From wikipedia):

Kali, is a Hindu goddess associated with eternal energy. The name Kali means “black”, but has by folk etymology come to mean “force of time (kala)”. Despite her negative connotations, she is today considered the goddess of time and change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation still has some influence. Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive of Kali as a benevolent mother goddess.

Kali is represented as the consort of god Siva, on whose body she is often seen standing. She is associated with many other Hindu goddesses like Durga, Bhadrakali, Sati, Rudrani, Parvati and Chamunda. She is the foremost among the Dasa-Mahavidyas, ten fierce Tantric goddesses.

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. And, because of her terrible form she is also often seen as a great protector.


She is standing on someone, with her trident ready to pierce them.


Kali’s sweet countenance.


More weapons are in her right hands, with a sickle held above.


Old Murugan Temple on a rock.



Mother Mary and Baby Jesus.

So no one is left out, there is a murti of Mary holding Jesus.


The faces sure are white.



is getting closer.


Another Murugan shrine.

You can see the lance and peacocks. (I said that Murugan was popular in Tamil Nadu).


Another Muniandi Shrine

See Muniappan, above. Another male protector.


It looks like a policeman is one of his attendants.


The is an old shrine, with stone lingam and trident, probably what was here to start with.


One More Muniandi Shrine

See Muniappan, above. Another male protector.

This one is just a few feet from the one above. I guess they really need protection here!



Getting closer. This is the southwest side view.


Banyan tree

With ‘wish bags’ hanging from it. These wishes are usually from women, for marriage, or for a child.


This drive was especially nice, with all the brightly painted shrines. There were many more shrines and temples along the way that we did not photograph. We just wanted to show you some of the highlights of the trip. To see more you will have to take the trip yourself. See the Google Map below.



3 Responses to “Shrines along the way: Between Tiruvannamalai and Tirukkoyilur”

  1. sriraml Says:

    A nice glimpse of village life and their worship.

    But the one I liked most is the view of Arunachala from a distance. It is so philoshophical. It kind of reminds me that God is seen as a light spark of divinity within everyone. Moving closer one can find him as the unmoving self in the heart standing out tall and clear.

  2. VandeNikhilam » Shrines along the way: Between Tiruvannamalai and Tirukkoyilur … Says:

    […] the original post here: Shrines along the way: Between Tiruvannamalai and Tirukkoyilur … This entry is filed under Hindu, Hindu God-Goddess. You can follow any responses to this entry […]

  3. prasanthjvrs Says:

    Excellent article Richard.

    Appreciate your interest and dedication.


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